In his mini memoir, Luca Nichetto reveals how Murano's glass industry heightened his appreciation of production, which he believes is inherently connected to design.
LUCA NICHETTO: ‘I felt as if I was living like Tom Sawyer when growing up. I was born in Venice but raised on Murano, a super-small island. Because of the water surrounding us, my friends and I would imagine we were pirates. Looking back, I think it was a perfect environment.’
‘Murano is known for its glass industry. My grandfather was a glass-blower, my mother a decorator. At least 95 per cent of the people I was connected to in Murano were linked to the glass industry, so creativity was something absolutely normal to me. Probably what I’m doing now is because of being raised amid all that activity. I never decided to become a designer. I just went with the flow and started designing glass pieces.’
‘My mom was into design. She furnished the house with very interesting products. Our sofa was B&B Italia’s Coronado, and our table was the Tulip by Eero Saarinen, in marble. I didn’t understand their significance when I was a kid, but I do now.’
‘Drawing and history were my favourite classes in primary school. Even before I started school, one thing that really attracted me was the mask of Tutankhamun. My dad had a book about it. I must have read it a thousand times to understand how it was discovered. It helped me to get a feel for beautiful things. I still think that mask is one of the most beautiful objects in the world.’
‘Age is moving in a way. When I was 23, I was probably much more mature than guys that age now. And look at my mom. She was married at 21. In 20 years’ time, it will probably be totally fine to start your studies at 25. But when you only enter the market at 30, the time you have to do something is short. To do something, you need to build your own career, and to build a career you first need to try things and make mistakes. Talent is not the only thing; it’s about experience, knowledge and luck too. University does not tell you this. And you know why? Because I truly believe university is the only money machine in the design industry right now that is not affected by the crisis.’
‘There is a lot of confusion right now about what design is and what it needs to achieve. There is art design, interaction design and so forth. It’s important for “design” to be more than a word. Yes, design should be spread, but what makes it difficult is that there are no more filters, no more boundaries. This complicates design – for me, but especially for young people having to decide what to do.’
‘I never go looking for brands, although maybe I should start doing that. I did in the beginning, of course, but currently brands are coming to me. Sometimes I say yes, sometimes no. It’s not a matter of big or small, Chinese, Chilean or Italian. The interesting thing is to think what I can do for them and what I can learn from them. If these two things have a positive answer, I will do the project. If I have some doubts, I won’t.’
‘I learned a lot working for Foscarini. I think my design process is still strongly connected to what I learned there. I was very young, and they pushed me to research material and process, to select samples and to ask for quotations. They taught me about production costs and what they mean to the retailer. I learned more from working than from going to school. Every collaboration is a learning process. That is the beautiful part of being a designer: every project is a new lesson. Good or bad.’
‘Language has been the biggest obstacle in my career. Five years ago, I didn’t speak English. It’s not fantastic now, but I can communicate. I’m not chauvinistic enough to think that design is only in Italy, so one day I told myself that I needed to learn English in order to travel and visit foreign companies. After a while I was able to communicate. That moment opened so many doors for me – it gave me a feeling of freedom, like receiving a driving licence.’
‘In the last ten years, the production side of design has seen little innovation. The focus shifted from how to make a product to how to sell a product. Of course 3D printing is an amazing tool, but it’s just a tool – that’s it. Ten years ago it was carbon fibre that was going to change the industry, but has it, really? It wasn’t like polyurethane foam or stretch materials, which completely changed the sofa in the 1950s and ’60s. Perhaps the only innovation has been the LED lamp, which changed the shape of lighting completely.’
Portraits Antonio Campanella
The entire interview is available in Frame #111. Get your copy today in the Frame store!